Snowbirds return to 15 Wing still grieving, but with wide community support
Public affairs officer Capt. Jenn Casey died when the plane she was in crashed shortly after take off in B.C.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds returned to 15 Wing in Moose Jaw, Sask., on Monday with one less team member, but embraced by a city ready to show its love, support and appreciation.
Tragedy struck the team on May 17 when Capt. Jenn Casey, the team's public affairs officer, died after one of the Snowbird planes crashed shortly after takeoff from Kamloops, B.C.
The aerial acrobats had been travelling across Canada for Operation Inspiration, a thank you to frontline health-care workers who are currently treating patients through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're proud to call them home but they're Canada's team," said Fraser Tolmie, mayor of Moose Jaw, on Monday. The team members live and work in Moose Jaw, he noted.
"I think this is a way of paying back to the Snowbirds and showing how much we care about them as they've shown how much they care about our country."
The team was grounded after the crash, which also injured Snowbird pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall, two weeks into Operation Inspiration. They arrived aboard a Hercules transportation plane.
They had flown in from Halifax, where Casey was being honoured the day before. The body of Casey had been returned to her home province on Sunday.
"When they hurt we hurt and, so you know, our community rallies," Tolmie said. "It's one of the great things about being proud of our city is is that we do care."
The Snowbirds are an iconic part of the community that draws out pride from locals, according to Kelly Boisclair, who drew a heart in chalk on sidewalks with her two children.
"Our church loves them and we're showing them support for what you're they're going through," Boisclair said.
Boisclair says her daughters saw the Snowbirds for the first time this year. When they hear a plane, they now say "the Snowbirds are here."
"It's so cool," one of the Boisclair offspring added.
With files from Radio-Canada and Andrea Ross